Industry and Idleness (Plate 1): The Fellow ‘Prentices at their Looms’ 1747 Monochrome engraving and etching.
“The Fellow ‘Prentices at their Looms” is the first of a series of twelve prints by William Hogarth that tell the story of Francis Goodchild and Thomas Idle, two fellow apprentices working in a loom in pre- industrial London. One is portrayed as really hard-worker, devoted Christian and successful. The other is shown as lazy, immoral and troublemaker.
The Industry and Idleness prints are part of Hogarth’s famous ‘Modern Moral Subjects’: a series of comic strip-like works in which he commented on relevant issues of the day.
Hogarth took great pride in his job as a printmaker. In fact, as his work became more and more popular and unscrupulously reproduced, he even campaigned for what in June 1735 would become the first Engravers’ Copyright Act (also known as ‘Hogarth’s Act’).
The use of engraving would also suit his Rococo-style ideas which were based on what he would call ‘the Line of Beauty’. From his point of view, serpentine or curved lines were synonyms of liveliness and exciting activity. You can see when looking close enough at these prints, there is not a single straight line.